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The Kohli Root Conundrum

Sitam Chaki

Last week saw stupendous performances from two elite batsmen in different parts of the world. What also garnered attention was Michael Vaughan’s tweet comparing the test match statistics of Joe Root and Virat Kohli. Here we look at the careers and performances of both these batting stalwarts and try our best to solve the Kohli Root conundrum!


Root has 3875 runs form 44 matches (80 innings) at an average of 56.15. Kohli isn’t far behind with 3194 runs in 42 matches (73 innings). The Indian captain, though averages almost 10 runs lower than the Englishman.

Test matchesMatchesInningsRunsAverage100’s50’s
J Root4480387556.151021
V Kohli4273319446.281212


Root has 10 centuries and 21 fifties compared to Kohli’s 12 of each. While, bare numbers cannot be disputed, they cannot be the only parameters for judgement. What also needs to be considered is the conditions the runs were made in and the quality of opposition.

Joe Root
Joe Root

Also, Vaughan conveniently ignores the limited overs statistics of the two batsmen. While test cricket is undoubtedly the grandest of the 3 formats, at least 50 per cent of all international cricket played is limited overs.

And the time has long gone, when you could frown on the shorter formats and frown at the achievements in those formats. The best cricketers in the world play limited overs cricket in the best of stadiums, in the best of conditions. There can be no possible justification not to consider these performances.

While Root has decent numbers in ODIs with 2743 runs at an average of nearly 45 (Strike Rate 85), Kohli clearly trumps him with 7212 runs at 51.5 (Strike rate 90). Kohli also has 25 centuries and 36 further scores of fifty, compared to 8 and 14 of Root.

ODIsMatchesInningsRunsAverageStrike rate100’s50’s
J Root7368274344.9685.00814
V Kohli171163721251.5189.972536

While Root has played far lesser number of one day internationals, Kohli’ superiority in the shorter format cannot be denied. Similarly, Kohli’s T20 International numbers too are better.

T20IsMatchesInningsRunsAverageStrike rate100’s50’s
J Root201859439.60138.7804
V Kohli4340164158.60135.17016

Coming back to their test statistics, Kohli had a rather rough start to his test career. He made his debut in the West Indies in 2011, when Sachin Tendulkar opted for an extended break after the IPL. He managed 75 runs in 5 innings, with a highest score of 30.

8626293707_78f58898b6_bThat winter, there were calls to drop him after an indifferent first 2 test matches on the tour of Australia. He responded with scores of 44, 75, 116 and 22 in the next 2 tests. Since then, he has displayed a rich vein of form in the longer format, to go with his performances in the limited overs game.

Kohli’s performance reached the zenith on the following tour of Australia in 2014-15. This time Kohli managed as many as 692 runs in 4 test matches with 4 centuries.

Root, on the other hand, has terrific numbers against all test playing nations. He averages least against Australia (41.29) and New Zealand (39.53). He averages a sensational 101 against India buoyed by his performance in the summer of 2014.

An interesting point to note is the fact that 9 of Kohli’s 12 test hundreds have come outside the subcontinent. On the other hand, Root has scored 8 of his 10 test centuries in England. While, both achievements are commendable, overseas performances do tend to hold extra weight.


Both batsmen are in their mid-20s and have several years of top flight cricket left in them. Root has undoubtedly taken the cricketing world by storm since his debut in 2012-13. Vaughan’s assertion cannot be inarguably refuted.

Having said all that, Kohli’s limited overs performances in the last 5 years have been nothing sort of mind blowing. Each and every time someone describes a Kohli performance as his best ever, he manages to trump it with another incredible virtuoso.

While Root too has more than decent numbers, he certainly hasn’t touched heights like his Indian counterpart. To be very honest we haven’t seen enough of Root in all conditions, to form a proper opinion.

An England India series looms in the near horizon. It provides a mouth-watering and enticing prospect and should be a fascinating battle.

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